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Ohio State finds a way to beat Penn State, 27-26

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That was quite the roller-coaster.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes battled the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions in a clash of Big Ten titans on Saturday night in State College, Penn. Both teams traded blows, but in the end in front of a Beaver Stadium record 110,889, Ohio State survived the White Out, 27-26. A fourth-and-5 stop of the Nittany Lions with 1:16 remaining sealed the win for the Bucks.

It wasn’t a perfect night in the air for quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but he got better as the game progressed. After throwing an early interception—which wasn’t really his fault because it bounced off of Rashod Berry and into the hands of a PSU defender. But by the final whistle, Haskins collected 270 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing.

Five different OSU receivers had more than one catch. Parris Campbell led the corps with seven receptions for 60 yards. He was also the most targeted OSU receiver, getting nine passes thrown to him. KJ Hill scored the game-winning TD with 2:03 remaining, via a 24-yard screen down the far sideline; Hill ended with six catches for 59 yards. The game-changing catch, though, came from Binjimen Victor. His 47-yard catch—with involved juggling the ball back into his possession and beating away two defenders—for a touchdown sparked the Buckeyes’ fourth quarter rally when they were down 26-14. He only caught one more pass and totaled 55 receiving yards for the game, but he was the absolute difference maker when the Bucks needed him.

Trace McSorley did all he could for the Nittany Lions. One of the most decorated QBs in his school’s history, he rushed for 175 yards on the ground, and threw for 286 yards and two scores.

While the ‘White Out’ makes Beaver Stadium one of the most intimidating stadiums in the Big Ten, they now fall to 7-8 in those games after the loss to OSU.

Let’s take a look at how this one went down.

Penn State won the coin flip, and elected to receive the ball first. They took nearly five minutes off of the clock behind a combination of passes and rushes from McSorley. Midway through the drive— and in OSU territory— PSU converted on a fourth-and-2 by getting exactly two yards. However, the drive stalled out after a McSorley pass slipped through the hands of a turning Juwan Johnson on third down.

A short punt gave OSU a starting spot at their own 20. This drive would not be destined for points. An incompletion and penalty set the Bucks back by the time third down arrived. On third-and-10, a screen to Parris Campbell was one sealed-block away from being a touchdown run, but Shareef Miller caught the H-back by the ankles.

McSorley got the wheels turning on drive No. 2. The first three plays all went for first down distance, with the third play going 31 yards on a remarkable one-handed snag by Johnson over Damon Arnette. PSU sat at the OSU17, but a backfield pass was fumbled for a loss of 13. That doomed Penn State’s chance for a touchdown, but freshman kicker Jake Pinegar slipped in a 34-yard field goal for the first points of the game. But, success wasn’t an absolute for the kicker, as his next attempt— from 46 yards out— went wide right, and looked off from the start.

Ohio State’s offensive woes continued as the next two drives were three-and-outs. After the first quarter, the Buckeyes had a measly (and surprising) 27 yards of offense.

Things looked promising in the second quarter, as a short punt after a PSU three-and-out gave OSU the ball at their own 45. Mike Weber punched the ball forward for 10 yards and put the Bucks in PSU territory. However, a deflected pass off the hands of Rashod Berry went right to Nittany Lions defenseman Garrett Taylor. Taylor brought the ball 45 yards up to the OSU 28. After the play, Haskins and Miller got into it— leading to offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, as the OSU QB’s teammates came to his defense.

The Buckeye defense clamped down on Penn State, forcing them to kick a field goal after just three plays. Pinegar redeemed himself on this go round, connecting from 39.

Dobbins made a steady appearance following Penn State claiming a 6-0 lead. Four straight carries moved the Buckeyes 18 yards, but a pair of incompletions— mostly due to the pocket collapsing— forced Ohio State to punt the ball away for the fourth time in five drives.

Both teams would trade three-and-outs before the Nittany Lions broke open the game. Facing third-and-5 from their own 7, McSorley hit K.J. Hamler in stride on a slant route. Hamler had a full step on the Buckeye defenders— including safety Isaiah Pryor who took a terrible angle— and sprinted 93 yards to the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.

Defense continued to become the name of the game; OSU suffered two more three-and-outs, while PSU had one of their own. With 2:45 left in the half, the Penn State machine seemed destined for a runaway game. However, linebacker Tuf Borland met running back Miles Sanders at the line— and hit the ball with his head. The football tumbled onto the bodies around it before being corralled by Dre’Mont Jones.

It was the Buckeyes’ first break of the game, and they made the most of it. With the ball deep in PSU territory, Haskins— again facing pressure— dumped the pass off to Dobbins, who cut down the sideline into the end zone for a 26-yard score.

McSorley and the Nittany Lions had a chance for one last score in the half, but a Pete Werner tackle halted McSorley short of the first down around midfield. James Franklin decided not to gamble on another fourth down conversion and punted the ball away to OSU with 20 seconds left. Haskins took us to halftime with a knee.

Even though OSU only trailed 13-7, this game easily could’ve been worse. Penn State out-gained the Buckeyes 293-93 in the first half. Here are more of the numbers from the first 30 minutes of play.

Whatever the coaching staff said at halftime, it worked, at least at first. The Buckeyes grabbed five first downs to start the second half, and capped it off with a 4-yard strike by Dobbins for the score. Ohio State marched 75 yards on 13 plays, with one of those being a fourth-and-1 that had to be reviewed— but let’s be honest, we all knew that the spot was going to be good.

Penn State’s first two drives of the new half fell flat. Even though an OSU personal foul on the first drive spotted them 15 yards, the Lions still punted the ball away after three plays. Ohio State on the other hand, was heating up. This time around, screen passes that morphed into first down sprints were mixed with Weber pounding the ball up the middle. No touchdown opportunity unveiled itself, but Sean Nuernberger had a field goal chance to push OSU’s lead to 17-13. He made the kick, but a 15-yard facemask call on the Bucks pushed the re-try out to 48 yards. Unlike the first kick that was right down the middle, this one sailed wide left.

The takeoff ability of McSorley was on display in the waning minutes of the third quarter. A 23-yard scamper put the home team on the prowl. Combined with holding and pass interference calls on the Bucks, PSU was granted access to the fringe of the OSU red zone. The Buckeyes clamped down, and forced a fourth-and-1 from the OSU24. Franklin’s squad elected to go for it, and was operating in a hurry up offense— catching OSU off guard in a substitution state. However, the referee blew the whistle to reaffirm that a fourth down was happening, stopping the Nittany Lions momentum. That proved to be a difference maker, as on the fourth down conversion, McSorley went for a quick pass to his tight end, but caught a piece of Chase Young’s hand on the pass. Young saved the Buckeyes’ lead, as the fourth quarter came calling.

Young’s preservation of OSU’s lead didn’t last long. Penn State moved like a team on a mission in the waxing minutes of the fourth quarter. The backbreaking play of the drive came when McSorley hit an open Hamler for 36 yards, but in addition to that, Isaiah Pryor caught Hamler’s head with his shoulder. Because Hamler was falling to the ground, he was a defenseless receiver; Pryor was hit with a targeting call— a half the distance to the goal penalty in terms of yardage— and was ejected from the game. McSorley took control of the remaining 15 yards. He sprinted for 13 on the first play, and lobbed a TD pass to Pat Freiermuth from two yards out. Penn State made their extra point, and controlled the game 20-14.

After Ohio State came up a yard short to keep a drive alive, Penn State, again, took advantage. McSorley found Mac Hippenhammer for 21 yards to get into visiting team territory. On the ground, PSU’s signal-caller took off for rushes of 19 and 10, paving the way for a Sanders TD rush.

With a Nittany Lion lead back up to double-digits, Haskins and Buckeye offense needed an immediate answer. They got it, thanks to Binjimen Victor taking a bobbled pass 47 yards to the house. After stopping PSU, Haskins engineered another scoring drive. Marching 96 yards, a 35-yard screen to Dobbins pulled OSU out of their own end zone, and enabled the Buckeyes to get their flow. The game-leading score came off a far side-screen to Hill, who broke past defenders and waltz the final 5 yards into the end zone. With the score 27-26, OSU went for two, but Haskins threw the ball too high to Terry McLaurin.

Down one, Penn State had 2:03 and all three timeouts to work with. After getting to the OSU43, the game came down to a fourth-and-5. Instead of giving the ball into McSorley’s hands, Franklin’s play went to Sanders. He would be stopped in his tracks. Ohio State took a couple knees, a put the game away.

Next up is Indiana. The Buckeyes will face the Hoosiers at 4 p.m. ET, with FOX broadcasting the game.